As a big fan of the first five tomb raiders, I was so pumped for Angel of Darkness. I remember pre-ordering it and getting this DVD about the making of the game - Core Design had basically created this big story in which Angel of Darkness was just the first chapter. I guess after making 5 tomb raider games in 5 years, Core design got burnt out on the old Tomb Raider formula, so had finally had some time to reinvent from the ground up. But Angel of Darkness was obviously too ambitious… On the back of building this hugely successful series for the first Playstation, you can see they wanted to make something more. More story, more intrigue, more cinematic, more gameplay… more realism…
At this stage, Tomb Raider had become this kind of phenomenon, the movie with Angelina Jolie came out in 2001. I think the second movie was coming out by the time of AoD’s release in 2003. The last game for the PSOne had come out in 2000. So it seemed Core were riding this wave of hype, they had over two years to build the game, but Eidos rushed its release ahead, which definitely hurt the final product.
It was a mess of a game. Even on PS2, I had Lara fall through the floor to her death, and saved games become stuck in loading loops where I had to restart the game… They sort of had the same Tomb Raider formula at the heart but added all these systems on top of it which meant you had to go through the game in a certain way. It would have worked better if it was an adventure game but not a Tomb Raider game. I seem to remember early into the game, Lara has to get through this door but is not strong enough to open it. You had to explore the area below, search a derelict apartment, open some drawers until Lara suddenly/miraculously ‘became strong’ enough to open the door. It was so stupid considering we had the last 5 games in which she is running and jumping through all these ancient tombs and performing handstands whenever you held R1 when climbing up ledges…
It was the first Tomb Raider game to move away from that blocky isometric framework for building levels. But in so doing you kind of lost that ‘level awareness’, where you knew the capabilities of your own move set. Like for instance, all the levels of classic Tomb Raider were made on this square grid. The seasoned Tomb Raider player knew how that a regular standing jump could clear two squares easy. Three squares, you might have to grab the ledge. A four square gap would require a running jump and a ledge grab. You don’t really get that sense of planning in platforming games anymore. Especially with Uncharted’s more automated approach to climbing being the industry standard.
Apart from the art design, the one thing I truly loved about AoD was the music. It was this proper orchestral treatment that mixed in elements and cues from the original PSOne games. The music of those games will always stay with me so it’s fantastic to hear them done justice with a full orchestra.
But yeah, Angel of Darkness is one of those failed games that is fascinating to pick apart. A quintessential BAD game, but made bad for all the right reasons, a young team of designers and developers wanting to push the limits of what they could do.
Curious about the exchange you got with the writers! Can you elabourate?